Oh, those beautiful horns and strings! The horns are the first instruments to appear on Better Part of Vice, easing the listener gently into the gorgeously languid “Quarter or Half of Greater or Less,” a track title that makes one question the fullness of one’s glass. In terms of the music, one’s cup runneth over.
Often the Thinker is younger than Do Make Say Think, but seems just as experienced as it starts its second decade. The bands possess a similar warmth, akin to a winter hearth, with boots drying by the fire and glasses of brandy well in hand. This is a shoegaze style of post-rock, instinctively played by a sextet of seemingly close friends, occasionally joined by five others. Together, the players drench their audience in waves of cloth, dressed up yet comfortable, like a flannel tuxedo.
Many bands seem to be in a hurry these days, either pushing out releases before they are ready or simply playing fast. Often the Thinker honors its name with thoughtful, well-crafted pieces. Even the track titles reflect their approach: “Ferment Slowly”, “Year and a Half of Peace”. The best things in life often take time: wisdom, love, healing, cake. And while the pace is not slow, neither is it hurried; these tracks arrive at their destinations on time, while enjoying the scenery along the way. While listening, the heart rate seems to slow to something resembling normal. Is relaxation the better part of vice?
As one might expect from such an album, small valleys are followed by mountable peaks. It’s as if the band is saying, “may your troubles be manageable and your goals be attainable.” If so, it’s a kind and realistic blessing. Every snowflake of piano and gust of brass seems to underline this encouragement. Humble tracks such as “Hail Fellow, Well Met” fulfill their duties well. By the time the second “huge” track comes around (“Swan and Obscene and Bottle”), the listener is already relaxed, ready to take on a new year. The harmonic swells are the wave that carries one over the reef. (Richard Allen)